Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVI page 2
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
The doctor and his son went in hot pursuit, but the fugitives were soon lost sight of in the forest. In these peaceful days all this may sound somewhat high-handed, but if there had been more people of the Rowe temper about, Power and all his tribe would have had shorter careers. There were no Trades Hall rules as to eight hours work in those early days; if there were, Power certainly did not observe them. On February 2nd, 1870 , early in the day, he stopped three men—George Baker, Saul Spaling and a man named Pridmore, carriers, and relieved them of ₤15. This feat occurred within three miles of Avenel. Thence a pleasant canter brought him towards Longwood, where he interviewed three other carriers, whom he left some ₤10 poorer. Then, doubling back on his tracks, he was next seen on the same afternoon on the road between Broadford and Yea, where he rested under the shade of a brush fence.
Power’s rest was disturbed by the approach of a constable on horseback, leading two other horses. Power stood up, covered the constable with his gun and demanded his revolver. There was no resistance possible, the unfortunate man having one hand holding the reins of the horse he was riding, and the other holding the halters of the led horses. Power conversed quite affably with the constable, and told him that on the previous night two policemen pressed him very close, and added reproachfully that if this sort of thing occurred again he would have to shoot some of them. While this was going on Mr Farquhar McKenzie came upon the scene, and him Power relieved of his horse, saddle and bridle.
In relating these exploits I am selecting a few of the more notable, leaving out of account many of the less striking ones. I will add but one further case. Its special interest lies in the fact that it led indirectly to the closing of Power’s career.
Mr. ROBERT McBEAN ROBBED
Mr. Robert McBean, whose portrait is here shown, was the owner of Kilfera Station, some twelve miles from Benalla, right in the heart of the Greta Country. Here were many of the friends of Power, as of the Kelly gang in later years, but they found Mr McBean and his good wife kindly neighbours. Greta cattle and horses often found their way into the Kilfera paddocks, but there was no impounding, and altogether Mr and Mrs Mc.Bean stood well in the estimation of these Greta folk.
But Power committed the great blunder of sticking up Mr McBean one day in March, 1870, taking from him his horse, saddle and bridle and a valuable gold watch. The watch was an heirloom, and it was agreed that if Power were sent ₤15 by a man named Jack Lloyd the watch would be restored. The question was whether Lloyd was willing to take the trouble and incur the risks of such an undertaking, without the prospect of some substantial benefit to himself.
Shortly after being robbed Mr McBean visited Melbourne . At the Club of which he was then a member, he met the Chief Commissioner of Police, Captain Standish, who was greatly perplexed at the thought of Power carrying on his campaign for so long a time without being brought to account. He and his friend McBean discussed the matter far into the night. The latter thoroughly understood the character of the people of the Greta district and knew how ready some of the older criminals there were to do anything for a consideration. He suggested that if a sufficient reward were offered, Jack Lloyd, the intermediary named by Power, might be induced to lead the police to Power’s retreat in the mountains, under cover of the arrangement to redeem his (McBean’s) watch.
The reward was gazetted, and as soon as Lloyd was satisfied on this point he undertook to act as guide to the police. Lloyd imposed but one condition - that Monfort, who was then stationed in the N E District, should be one of the police party. He trusted probably in Montfort’s discretion, and probably in his pluck also; at all events Montfort’s presence in the party was a sine qua non with Lloyd.
When progress was reported to Captain Standish, he selected Superintendent Francis Hare as leader of the expedition. Superintendent C H Nicolson was Hare’s senior, and was then in charge of the Kyneton district. He had not been consulted about the expedition, but the affair came to his knowledge and he insisted that, by right of seniority, he should be the leader. It was finally arranged that he, Hare, and Montfort should comprise the party.
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